Words index  Vivian Cook

Word Associations

What is the first word that comes into your head when you see the word blue? The top five associations for blue are sky, black, green, red, white. However of course people’s associations vary considerably; one of my students produced kind ofKind of Blue was the Miles Davis album she had been listening to. Give the first words that come into your head and then check whether your answers are in the top five, given below in order of popularity.

  1. Bread  
  2. On       
  3. Love    
  4. Bird    
  5. London
  6. Drive  
  7. Drink  
  8. Sky 
  9. Hot
  10. With   
  11. Quickly
  12. Carefully 


Most popular associations

  • Bread: butter, water, loaf, food, money
  • On: off, top, in, time, to
  • Love:  hate, sex, girl, life, marriage
  • Bird: fly, girl, tree, song, feathers
  • London: city, town, bridge, home, capital
  • Drive: car, in, mad, away, carefully
  • Drink: water, beer, thirst, eat, drunk
  • Sky: blue, cloud, stars, night, high
  • Hot: cold, cool, dog, house, humid
  • With: without, out, together, her, me
  • Quickly: fast, slowly, now, run, speed
  • Carefully: carelessly, slowly, care, done, gently
  • Now look at all your responses and see which of these categories they fall into.
    –  rhyming words, dove for love (called clang responses)
    – words that continue a structure in order and are a different type of word, blue sky for sky (adjective and noun) (called syntagmatic responses)
    – words from the same word type, i.e. butter for bread  (both nouns) (called paradigmatic responses)

    1. clang responses like fly for sky are most common from L2 users of English
    2. syntagmatic responses like blue for sky are found most often in young children
    3. paradigmatic responses like stars for sky are found most often in adults

    To test more word associations, try Edinburgh Word Association Thesaurus